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Thursday, February 5, 2015

St. Michaels, MD: spoiling the kids with a mansion vacation

I gave the 5-year-old a good long glare when she complained that the TV at our waterside mansion was a tad too small.

Oh, she was missing the big picture, all right.

Daddy hadn’t taken his wife and two daughters to some highway Sleep Cheap. He wouldn’t do that. As a travel writer for the past 20 years, Daddy’s been lucky enough to experience the world. He remembers telling his grandfather about balloon rides over Napa, moonlit sailing across the Caribbean and five-star dinners at Manhattan’s finest restaurants.

“Keep going like that, kid, and you’re going to wind up with champagne tastes,” gramps grumped.

The old man was right. 

I revel in life’s finer things: sumptuous dining, posh travel and staying in homes known more for their names than their addresses. That’s exactly how we ended up here, at Far Away Point on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I was writing a story about the splendid advantages of renting your own mansion and I’d brought along the family. It’s a tough job. 

The picturesque Far Away Point could comfortably sleep dozens, has a seven-person guest house, a boathouse, a Steinway piano, a four-flight elevator, 100 acres with a half-mile of shoreline on the Miles River, a private beach, a historic graveyard full of nearly two dozen dead millionaires.

And, oh, yeah, that crappy little TV.
As I wandered about on a misty morning absorbing the beauty of it all, the heady taste of fresh mimosa on my lips, I thought about my grandfather. My champagne tastes were being slaked. I was being spoiled.

And loving every bit of it.

But, I wondered, do I want to spoil my daughters? Do you?

I mean what if I take them to another mansion next year and they complain, “Gee, Dad, the boathouse here’s a little cramped.”

I’m an an odd crossroads where I find myself eager to spoil myself, yet I worry that doing so might damage my daughters. It’s a moral conundrum with which we all must wrestle.

How do we splurge on our kids without spoiling them rotten?

So here’s what I decided on my solitary walk and I’m bound to do: I’m going to take every opportunity to show my loved ones the most spectacular adventures the world has to offer.

I can’t predict the future, but it won’t surprise me if, before the girls enter college they ride elephants with a view of the Taj Mahal, toast marshmallows on the side of an active volcano and see Earth from recreational space vehicles. 

I will give them the greatest experiences the imagination can fathom. And I’ll be sure they appreciate every step along the way.

The aforementioned grandfather lived to be 98 years old. Raised in the Great Depression, he never had an opportunity for this kind of exotic fun, and he was wary of spending money on frivolity. As time ravaged him with its cruel indignities, he’d often lament how “growing old ain’t for sissies.”

Well, he was only half right.

Anymore, livin’ ain’t for sissies.

This world’s tough. Our children will learn, as we all do, it can be a mean old place. It’s our job to show them all the sparkle, to provide all the opportunities we can, to ensure they enjoy it, and to teach them to dance anytime they hear the music.

I vow that Far Away Point won’t be the last mansion in which my daughters relax. And I promise you this:

The next one will either have a bigger TV, too!

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